It seems almost intuitive that the phrase run amok has something to do with muck. In fact, it's often mistakenly written as run amuck. The truth is far more interesting: it was transliterated in the late seventeenth century from the Malay word amuk, which was basically the equivalent of Norse beserk: it described a frenzied state of furious attack, often resulting in killing sprees. This term was picked up by Portuguese sailors as amouco and was first used as an adjective or noun to describe the type of violent, unpredictable Malay they associated with the word. Through Proto-Malay, amuk is from a Proto-Malayo-Polynesian root sounding like hamuk; cognates exist in other Oceanic languages meaning "haunt" and "charge", so it has something to do with running into battle as well.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.